RUMFORD — The Rumford and Mexico Boards of Selectmen met with the Oxford County Sheriff’s Office on Thursday evening for the second time in three months to discuss the sheriff’s two-year contract proposal to serve both towns.

During a Nov. 24, 2014, meeting in Mexico, Sheriff Wayne Gallant presented a two-year contract proposal for $1.32 million and 12 deputies for the first year, and $1.18 million the second year.

Gallant said at his first meeting with both towns his department would provide eight two-man patrol teams and 24-hour coverage, with a third officer being a lieutenant and supervisor Monday through Friday during the day shift. There would only be two deputies on duty from 1:30 to 6 a.m.

Chief Deputy Hart Daley said at the November meeting that the contract also includes a detective.

During that same meeting, Rumford police Chief Stacy Carter and Mexico police Chief Roy Hodsdon presented a proposal to combine departments and work out of the Mexico police station. They estimated it would cost $1.38 million and provide 15 officers. Rumford has 12 officers, while Mexico has five.

Rumford Board of Selectmen Chairman Greg Buccina said at the start of Thursday’s meeting with Gallant and Daley that he wanted to invite the Sheriff’s Office to discuss their proposal again since “at the last few meetings we’ve had, you haven’t been present, which isn’t anything you did wrong.

“There were some things said that a majority of both boards felt shouldn’t have been said while you weren’t present,” Buccina said. “We thought we’d invite you back to discuss the proposal and tell us whether you think it’s adequate.”

Gallant said he found it strange that both towns would ask him to attend the meeting and “not have an agenda, or even any bullet points, to give me an idea of why I’m here.”

“Had I known what exactly you were looking for, I would’ve done some research ahead of time,” Gallant said. “I definitely want to participate this evening, but there may be some questions that I can’t answer, or questions that I won’t be able to provide exact figures for.”

He said he also took umbrage with some of the things that were said at previous meetings, including the fact that some board members thought there “wouldn’t be sufficient staffing” with his proposal.

“I read that someone at one of the meetings thought the present mutual aid deal you have with adjoining towns and with us would be less than adequate, because deputies would be coming from as far away as Brownville,” Gallant said. “First of all, we don’t have a Brownville in Oxford County. Brownville is in Piscataquis County, and if any of my men were going up there, they’d be suspended.”

The town of Brownfield is in southern Oxford County.

Gallant said each of the 12 deputies that would be assigned to Rumford and Mexico under his proposal had their own vehicle, and were fully equipped, fully geared officers.

“I worked in Rumford for 25 years, and I know that sometimes, when there was an emergency, you wouldn’t always be able to get there because the three or four cars you had were tied up,” Gallant said.

Rumford Selectman Jeff Sterling asked Gallant if the Sheriff’s Office would provide an animal control officer for both towns.

“Right now, I don’t budget for animal control officers,” Gallant said.

Sterling said he heard from a Bethel resident that the Sheriff’s Office, which provides coverage for Bethel, does not enforce their local ordinances.

“I was wondering if that’s true or not, because we have a lot of local ordinances around here, such as the fireworks ordinance, our snow ordinance and our taxi cab ordinance,” Sterling said. “I’m not sure if that would be an issue.”

Gallant said that typically, state and county police officers do not enforce local ordinances since it would be difficult to enforce “every single ordinance” between the towns they cover.

“One thing that you could do is negotiate the terms of your contract to include an ordinance you feel needs to be enforced,” Gallant said. “These types of things can be negotiated.”

Gallant suggested that Sterling talk to the Bethel Board of Selectmen and see if they’ve had difficulties in having their ordinances enforced.

Mexico Selectman Albert Aniel said both boards have questioned whether a 12-man force would be adequate to serve Rumford and Mexico.

“From what I’ve heard from you tonight, I would have no qualms with the coverage your proposal offers,” Aniel said.

Aniel later asked Gallant what would happen to each town’s equipment if they decided to withdraw from the contract.

“I know that if we decide to go with the Sheriff’s Office, we would hand over our vehicles and equipment, but some of our selectmen are worried that we would lose that if we decided to end the contract,” Aniel said.

Gallant reassured both boards that anything that either town handed over to the Sheriff’s Office would be returned to them upon the end of a contract.

“It doesn’t matter whether it’s firearms or cruisers,” Gallant said. “Whatever the town gives to the Sheriff’s Office, they get back when the contract ends.”

Rumford Selectman Brad Adley said he was hesitant to sign off on Gallant’s proposal unless there were a clause in the contract that allows both towns to withdraw if they have a disruption in their tax base.

Gallant said that there is language in the contract that allows for either town to withdraw from the contract.

Mexico Selectman Byron Ouellette said he was of two minds about Gallant’s proposal.

“On the one hand, it’s the less expensive way to go,” he said. “If you’re looking at it from a dollars and cents perspective, the sheriff’s proposal is the way to go. However, I’m really hesitant to lose out on some of the programs that the Mexico Police Department has started.”

Ouellette pointed out that the Mexico Explorers program, the neighborhood watch and a program in which officers keep an eye on elderly residents who live alone were all “great things for the town to have.”

“Over the last few years or so, our Police Department has evolved into something that we’ve wanted for awhile,” Ouellette said. “It would be really hard to just give that up.”

Buccina said both boards needed to schedule one more meeting to figure out how they wanted to present the sheriff’s proposal and the Mexico and Rumford police chiefs’ proposal to residents.

“I think we need one more to figure out where we go from here,” Buccina said. “We have some information, and it’s our job to place that in front of the people so they can decide what they want for this town.”

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